Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
In college, I minored in Psychology. I find the workings of the mind fascinating and enjoyed all of my Psych. classes. I was doing a little research last week and found some great articles that relate to the psychology of writing. I’d like to share them with you this week and ask for your opinions.
The first article, by Sadie F. Dingfelder, is from the American Psychological Association’s magazine, Monitor on Psychology. This article discusses an experiment done on outlining and its supposed benefit to writing.
Based on previous research showing writing to be a disorderly mental task, Dr. Sarah Ransdell, PhD, did an experiment on writing to see if, “[p]erhaps because of the inherent disorder behind good writing, traditional writing instruction–teaching students to separate planning from writing, and writing from revising–can be counterproductive.”
Dr. Ransdell supposed that good writing requires fluidity–the ability to jump around when new ideas pop into the author’s mind based on old ideas–and that writing will end up stronger if the author forgoes outlining and let’s the planning, writing and revising flow naturally.
In the experiment, 125 students were asked to write three essays. For the first essay, the students wrote the essay as they normally would. For the second essay, the students were instructed on and told to use the “step-by-step” strategy: outline, write, revise. For the third essay, the students were instructed on and told to use the “all-at-once” strategy: planning and revising as they write without outlining ahead of time or revising at the end.
Trained graders scored the essays on a 100-point scale, and the findings were that the “all-at-once” essays scored 5 more points on average than the “step-by-step” essays. (Check out the article for more details.)
In this case, the experiment seems to prove that it’s better to write a project without outlining. Do you agree with these findings? Is writing a book different than writing an essay? How?
Dr. Ronald Kellogg, PhD: “Writing is not just dumping what you know onto a page. You write to transform your abstract thoughts into concrete ones.”